LaMarcus Aldridge Dominant as Spurs Beat Bradley Beal, Wizards

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 21: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots the ball against the Washington Wizards on March 21, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

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There are few safer bets in sports than the San Antonio Spurs making the playoffs. If they continue the stretch of impressive play they’ve reeled off as of late, they’ll be part of the postseason for the 21st straight year.

San Antonio extended its winning streak to five Wednesday with a 98-90 victory over the Washington Wizards at AT&T Center. In doing so, the Spurs gave themselves a three-game lead over the ninth-seeded Denver Nuggets, creating critical separation in the standings after their playoff chances appeared to be in real danger a week-and-a-half ago.

Washington is battling for Eastern Conference playoff positioning as well, but it couldn’t push its own winning streak to three.

LaMarcus Aldridge proved to be too much for the visitors, leading the way with 27 points and nine boards, just missing his third straight double-double. Bradley Beal did what he could with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, but the Spurs’ typically strong defense largely contained Washington’s attack.

Aldridge and Beal each have been forced to shoulder a heavier offensive load given the missing star power on their respective teams. John Wall hasn’t played for the Wizards since Jan. 25 because of a knee injury, while Kawhi Leonard has appeared in just nine games for the Spurs this season.

Aldridge’s increased production has come at the most opportune time. On Wednesday, he continued to serve as the focal point of San Antonio’s offense after scoring more than 30 points in each of his last two games.

He exploited Marcin Gortat in the early going by receiving passes at the high elbow and unleashing his vintage fadeaway mid-range jumpers, and he was the only Spurs player to score more than two points in a muddled first quarter offensively.

It was a typical San Antonio contest, as neither team played aesthetically pleasing basketball with lights-out shooting. Instead, Gregg Popovich’s team plays stifling defense and provides enough timely offense to come away with wins even with Leonard sidelined.

Coming into the night, the Spurs had the NBA‘s third-ranked defense, according to NBA.com.

San Antonio’s offense came alive as the game progressed, as Aldridge spearheaded a 25-11 run to end the third quarter. While there’s nothing flashy about his approach, he provided a steady diet of pure mid-range strokes and worked around the basket against an overmatched Washington frontcourt.

It wasn’t only the Aldridge show, as Kyle Anderson did a little bit of everything with 16 points, four assists and three rebounds.

On the other end, Beal went into scoring mode early by working in pick-and-rolls and taking advantage of any sliver of an opening with San Antonio’s defense swallowing up looks for many of his teammates. He has been both a facilitator and shot-maker instead of just a score-first wing with Wall out, but Wednesday’s contest was more about him creating looks.

He had little issue finding the basket and was a bright spot for the Wizards, who tallied 13 turnovers and shot 32 percent from deep on the night.

Kelly Oubre Jr. closed the final gap with three triples on his way to 21 points, six rebounds and three assists, but most of his damage came after the game was well in hand.

Washington will look to bounce back Friday with a matchup against the Denver Nuggets, while the Spurs will attempt to keep rolling the same day against the Utah Jazz.